Ever since I was little I’ve loved my sleep. I savor every second in bed like it’s my last and it has come at a cost – I am the world’s worst morning person. No exaggeration: at school I slept my way through so many first bells, I ended up on report – my parents even considered finding a sleep specialist to find out why I found early starts so difficult!
Over my years in the working world (where sleeping in simply isn’t an option), I’ve tried everything to turn from night owl to lark. Some worked, many didn’t. But, considering I’ve held down a job for this long, you can be sure I’ve come a long way from my school days. Here’s what actually makes a difference…
1. Writing A Gratitude List
I know, I know… You’ve already aware how life-improving being more grateful can be, but what you probably didn’t know is that counting yourself lucky each morning could make you feel less sleep-deprived (and, no, you don’t have to get up even earlier to write it). Simply make the list before you go to sleep, keep it next to your bed and scan over it first thing.
By doing this, you’re automatically putting yourself in a good mood, aka taking yourself out of your normal morning slump. It’s all down to the neuroscience of gratitude – feelings of gratefulness increase dopamine and serotonin production, and both of these brain chemicals are involved in wakefulness.
2. Listening To Your Favourite Playlist
Ever noticed how music can make or break your night? I’VE left clubs because techno was blaring, but drop a Justin Timberlake track and I’ll be the last one standing. It’s a no brainer: the right song can not only put you in a good mood – it wakes you up, gives you more energy and sets you up for a happy, productive morning.
Again, it’s thanks to the feel-good brain chemicals your brain releases when you listen to music. In this case, it’s dopamine in particular – which makes you feel more awake, energized and motivated. To make the most of this effect, listen to songs you know well and that you associate with positive memories.
3. Plan Your Outfit The Night Before
Remember the saying ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’ – the same goes for your clothes. If you’re not the most experimental with your workwear this may not apply, but those who like to keep up appearances will really benefit from picking their attire the night before.
Not only will it save you time and make your morning run more smoothly – reducing stressful ‘I have nothing to wear’ panics and last-minute delays – the less decisions you have to make, the less tired your brain will be (seriously, there’s science to prove it).
4. Bin Your Blackout Blinds This Season
OK, so you don’t have to be that drastic; rolling them down part-way, or even leaving a gap of space at the bottom so a strip of light can get through, will work. And before you say you’re one of those people who needs total darkness to drift off – if you find mornings even more of struggle during the autumn and winter, your blinds might not be helping.
That’s because daylight signals the brain to stop making melatonin, the hormone that helps maintain sleep. And while blackout blinds and eye masks can help keep your body clock in check over summer, with all the extra hours of daylight, they can have the opposite effect during darker months.
5. Invest In A ‘Sunlight’ Alarm Clock
This changed my life at university – especially during the bleak depths of winter. After an hour spent on google and a self-diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – I ended up purchasing a Lumie Arabica Light. Unlike your typical beside lamp, Lumies emit an incredibly bright white light, similar to the sun’s rays, which signals to the body that it’s time to wake up. It also boosts your mood and can help reset your body clock; allowing you to get into a better sleep-wake cycle.
I’m now a convert to the Lumie Bodyclock, an alarm clock that simulates sunrise by emitting a gradually increasing light (the Philips Wake-Up Light is another great option). If the thought of tip number four gives you anxiety, this is a good alternative.
6. Schedule A Workout First Thing
It may be the last thing you want to be doing, but getting out of bed and heading to the gym is a surefire way to wake you up. Yes, it will be hard at first, but once you’ve started you’ll never look back – working out made one of the biggest differences to my mornings.
Still not quite convinced? You’ll boost your energy levels, feel-good brain chemicals and get your workout in before life can get in the way (a major benefit for those who often find themselves cancelling evening classes) cancel your classes Plus, getting your body moving means you’ll have a better night’s sleep: a win-win.
7. Make Changes Slowly
If you’re a life-long night owl, overhauling your morning routine is going to take time – trust me, it’s not as simple as making changes one evening and flying out of bed the next day. Instead, ease yourself into it as your body clock adjusts.
This could mean bringing your alarm forward by ten minutes to start with, or implementing one of these steps each day rather than jumping in the deep end. Not only are you far more likely to stick to new habits if you implement them gradually, it will also stop your body from going into total shock/sleep deprivation/zombie mode (which will just set you back to square one).